There was really no question in Heero’s mind that
stepping between a hopped up gunman and Duo Maxwell was the thing to do.
It wasn’t a matter of it being the right thing, or the noble thing,
or even the brave thing. It was just the only thing.
Neither of them was armed, there really wasn’t any cover available
for them to get behind, nothing much else on that street but the two of
them, and that hopped up gunman. So… Heero stepped in front of Duo
and provided the only cover available… himself.
He didn’t expect that he was likely to live through the move; the
gun looked to be of a size that just about any major hit would do the job.
But there were sirens very close and he only had to make himself a shield
until the police arrived and took care of that hopped up gunman.
It wasn’t even a choice he really consciously made. More like the
hand-to -the toddler gesture a mother makes when having to brake a car
suddenly. Instinct. Autopilot. Knee-jerk.
The moment of his death was a cacophony of sounds and motions that mostly
escaped him. Lot of gunfire, the scream of sirens and brakes, shouting,
cussing, and an ear-splitting scream of anger/fear/horror/denial, that… kind
of made him feel bad.
He’d never wondered overly much about what happened after you died… you’d
be dead, was how he saw it, so why wonder? Duo speculated about it sometimes,
seeming to find humor in some of the notions and ideas that he’d
learned about in his youth. And the lady across the hall in his apartment
building was always making jokes about ‘yomi ‘and things she
only half understood about Japan. Heero always laughed and never bothered
to tell her he’d never been to the place and had no idea what she
was talking about, and actually found her to be pretty rude.
But despite his exposure to some of those stories, he’d always figured
dead was dead, and was quite surprised to find himself sitting in a cloudy
sort of void after he died and even more surprised to find Relena sitting
next to him.
‘I’m not Relena,’ the person who (apparently) was not
That certainly explained the wings. And the kind of weird glowing over
her head that might have been a halo, or might have just been bad lighting.
‘You can thank Duo for that,’ Not-Relena said. ‘We usually
pull our aspect from the beliefs of the dearly, but since you don’t
have any… I used his.’
And when she said ‘his’ the clouds sort of thinned below them,
and it was like looking down a tunnel at what was apparently going on at
the crime scene. It was kind of disconcerting to see his own dead body,
and even more disconcerting to have to watch Duo be… very, very upset.
‘Not dead,’ Not-Relena informed him, kind of fluffing out
her wings as though they were a novelty to play with.
‘The angel business is a little bit last year,’ she said,
spreading the wings wide for a minute. ‘I don’t get to do the
feather thing very often anymore.’
Heero didn’t bother with the ‘Ah’ of understanding since
she could obviously read his mind, figured it would just be redundant.
‘Thank you,’ she said with an obvious tone of relief. ‘Sorry
if it feels a bit intrusive, but this would just take forever without.’
Heero turned to look at her, just so she could see the raised eyebrow
to go with his next thought, unsure if body language could be read like
a mind could be read. Besides… if he was looking at Not-Relena, he
didn’t have to see Duo… crying. He’d never seen that
before and it was doing something really not nice to the pit of his stomach.
‘It mostly comes across,’ she allowed, ‘but thanks for
the visual. Though… are you sure you don’t want to watch your
final mortal moments instead?’
He scowled and could tell from her smirk (an expression he’d never
seen on Relena’s face) that she knew damn well what it was he didn’t
want to see.
‘Once in a life-time chance,’ she grinned and waved her hand
over the hole in the mist and it was like she tuned in the television.
They got sound.
‘Oh god no… no… don’t you do this to me, damn
it! Heero? Heero! Oh no, no, no…’
That not nice thing in Heero’s gut twisted like a knife. He hadn’t
figured Duo was going to be dancing on his grave or anything, but he hadn’t
expected quite this level of… hysteria.
‘Mr. Maxwell doesn’t take losing things he loves very well,’ Not-Relena
said gently, and Heero kind of wanted to smack her for making him watch.
‘Hey,’ she said with a shrug of snow white wings. ‘You
made the mess… you don’t get to walk away without at least
seeing the consequences.’
Heero was finding a smug Relena a little hard to take, and sort of wished
he’d had some belief system of his own that wasn’t just blank.
And then he wondered why on earth Duo would see Relena, of all people…
Not-Relena sighed heavily. ‘Duo wouldn’t see Relena… he
would see a different face, but that’s private. You see me because
you have some twisted beliefs about purity and innocence. But really Heero… you
were doing so well to suddenly start evading. What is it you’re trying
not to think about?’
And, of course, the minute she said it, like that ‘don’t think
about it’ game that can’t be won… he thought about it.
‘He does not love me,’ he said out loud, wondering why he
had and kind of knowing why he had and kind of being annoyed over this
whole damn thing.
Not-Relena threw back her head and laughed. ‘You said it out loud
because you know it’s not true, so you knew you couldn’t think
it at me. Really, Heero… I hadn’t thought you would be the
type to waste so much time.’
How did one go about wasting eternity?
‘I told you,’ she said, ‘you’re not dead. Yet.’
Whole lot of implication there. If there was time that was wasting, it
would probably be for that body down there that he already had to admit
he was feeling sort of… detached from. Like it didn’t have
anything to do with him. Like…
‘Like too much longer and you won’t be able to find your way
back,’ he was informed.
Did that matter to him? Not like he was leaving behind a family with three
and a half kids and a dog. Not like it would take more than cleaning out
his desk at work and somebody boxing up his apartment and giving his possessions
to Goodwill or something. He did have a will. It left everything to Duo
if he wanted it, and if he didn’t, it could all go to charity. Not
‘Cared?’ Not-Relena interjected almost kindly.
Well, the sobbing Duo Maxwell currently trying to staunch bleeding and
screaming at police officers to get a ‘fucking God damn ambulance
right damn fucking now’ kind of… well… kind of put a
dent in that thought.
‘If you hadn’t been two steps closer to Albert, he’d
have stepped in front of you,’ she said and there was that damn smug
Albert? Who in the hell… oh, the gunman, obviously. There was a
strange tickle on his cheek… the first real sensation he’d
had since finding himself sitting there with Duo’s rendition of… whatever
the hell she was, and he rubbed at it, but found no relief. Not-Relena
snorted softly and adjusted the zoom on her damn misty broadcast, and he
was seeing his own face a bit closer. Seeing it spattered with Duo’s
tears as he bent over him, desperately trying to save… trying to
save his life.
‘Let’s cut to the chase, Heero,’ Not-Relena said softly,
kind of obnoxiously near his ear. ‘Just why is it you think you’re
not worth the love you’re staring at right now?’
Heero blushed, or he thought he blushed. Or… if he had a body, he
would have blushed. The intent was there, anyway, and the feeling. He tried
hard to think about… anything else. Because, damn it, some things
should just be private and… and… some things were just sort
of embarrassing when you did more then let them drift around in the back
of your mind as unformed thoughts.
Not-Relena grinned in an almost evil sort of way. In that way that Duo
could right before he did something he knew he shouldn’t, but didn’t
care. ‘We’re going to form those thought up there, Heero. Show
me what your heart looks like…’
Heero growled, only the second noise he’d bothered to make since
blinking and finding himself here. But just like last time it did nothing
to stop his head from thinking thoughts.
His heart formed in his mind’s eye. An image, anyway. A maudlin,
cheesy, private damn it image of a carefully faceted heart… made
of coal. Dusty, black, utterly unredeeming.
Not-Relena made a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a scoff
and then she leaned in again. ‘Now… show me Duo’s.’
It was an easier image to let form and not nearly as embarrassing somehow,
though it probably should have been. Duo’s heart was a thing of flame,
a faceted ruby (Heero had a thing for gemstones? He had not known) that
burned like some sort of eternal candle. It was pure and unflawed, bright
like a guiding…
‘Wow,’ said Not-Relena. ‘Got much of a pedestal going
Heero growled again, because some thoughts of irritation just needed sound.
She was undeterred and put a companionable arm around his shoulders.
‘You know what?’ she said in the tone of voice damned like
a used car salesman. ‘I like you, Heero. Despite that saleman crack.
I’m going to cheat a little bit here… let me show you something…’
He supposed it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Not-Relena
could plant thoughts as well as read them, but it did. So he was left floundering
a little bit when an image formed in his head that wiped his own away.
‘This is how Duo sees his heart,’ she whispered and then withdrew
and let him look.
It was… nothing at all what Heero would have expected. Instead of
a strong, resilient crystalline thing of beauty… it was… fragile
looking. Glass maybe, blown glass. The most fragile glass Heero could think
of. And it had been cracked again and again. The pieces were all there,
wrapped around with wire to hold it all together. But the word that Heero
was left with as it faded from his head was… hollow.
He closed his eyes on the image and was just left wanting to gather it
into his hands and protect it… cherish it… keep it safe… heal
‘There you go,’ Not-Relena chuckled happily. ‘I knew
you were a bright boy.’
He had a question and waited for her to answer, but she kept her peace
and made him ask.
‘How does he see mine?’
And the heart that he saw in his mind’s eye then was a thing of
such shining light, of such glowing proportions that he wanted to turn
Not-Relena tweaked the volume and all he could hear was Duo’s broken
whisper over his near-corpse, ‘Please… please… please…’ and
all he could see was that light that filled everything, that seared everything
The damn clouds let go and he found himself slammed to the ground like
he’d really fallen from the stoop of Heaven.
‘Just the sorting room for recycling, Heero,’ a laughing voice
said in his mind. ‘You’re not quite ready this go-around… I
think you two can get it right this time.’
Well, that raised all kinds of questions, but he forgot all of them when
the body he was occupying again decided that breathing would be an awesome
idea, so he did and it hurt. Hurt like he’d just been shot. Hurt
like it was really kind of hard to do. And then all his attention had to
go to that whole living thing.
But somehow… he wasn’t quite sure why all of a sudden… but
somehow, that living thing seemed a lot more important. And when they got
around to that whole ambulance/transport/hospital routine, and he found
that there was a hand wrapped tight in his… he decided that not letting
go was almost as important as remembering to breath. On a par, really.
Or… maybe it was the more important thing?
‘Now you’re cookin’ with gas. I knew you had it in you…’
Fiction : GW :